March 29, 2012

This Week's Forecast: Seasonless

Whether you’ve noticed or not, we keep repeating a few key words every week: demand, transparency, new consumer, the shift, uniqueness, innovation, experimentation, awareness, trial and error, and most importantly, change, change, change. This says something in itself. No matter how many times we re-iterate it, we are in the midst of change. Things need to change.

Not only is the economy unstable, but weather conditions are more unpredictable than ever before. Just walk outside. From 80 degree weather one day to low 50’s the next and it’s only March. Not to mention, snow on Halloween and the mildest winter we’ve ever seen. Something just isn’t right.

photos via

Looking at the fall/winter shows alone one can see how no one knows what to do next. From ladylike to menswear inspired, sporty, Spanish, Asian, and influences from 19th century wartime origins extending all the way to the 80’s peplum, how do we make fashion fresh anymore? A few weeks ago in the Financial Times, one of the most interesting, imaginary and innovative designers of our time, Rei Kawakubo herself said, “The future is flat.” If that isn’t some insight into the mood this past season just look at the overabundance of black from matte to super glossy finishes embracing the runway.

The retail industry is definitely feeling the affects of the irregular weather patterns and trying to figure out how to react to its instability. If we can’t forecast day to day conditions, how can we plan for months ahead let alone years? Well for one, change is going to have to start at the supply chain. The system we have established over decades ago is no longer applicable as the growing uncertainty of erratic weather and natural disasters highlights the vulnerability of our complex global supply chain. This not only supports an evolution towards a more sustainable lifestyle but as a combination of unstable climatic changes and the growing presence of social media drives the industry to simplify itself, the sourcing of goods will have to shift and lead times will have to shorten. 

photo via The Financial Times

So how exactly do we keep up with the fast paced purchases of various online platforms and diminishing weather predictability? Not only does our supply chain footprint have to be flexible to adjust quickly but companies need more dynamic strategies to ensure profitable and reliable customer service. In addition, there needs to be a better balance between offshoring, nearshoring and reshoring as companies begin to re-evaluate their previous supply chain decisions. Many have begun to look at the prospects of near shoring which include efficient manufacturing in small batches, the ability to respond to rapid production changes, quickly introduce new products and an availability and presence of local skills to prevent constant travel expenses.

photo via

Fashion can defy the weather, but if and only if we shift to a "seasonless" approach. This means the fashion industry will have to react rapidly to the weather rather than only to the trends. The average consumer doesn't want to buy coats in August or bathing suits in January. Some retailers are getting a boost from an early spring as it stimulates impulse buying more than anything. People just don't know what to dress themselves in anymore. One can't just look outside in the morning let alone depend on the weather report to give them a feel for the day's forecast. We need and want to start buying pieces that can be worn year round. Considering this, when will the industry realize it is irrelevant to still think in terms of seasons?

photo via Uniqlo

At this point, the best solution is layering looks. Uniqlo is right on point as they look to blur the lines between inner and outerwear which allows customers to experiment and easily adapt to the changing climate on a daily basis. Eventually, the rest of the industry is going to have to place more emphasis on combining fashionable and functional garments, for instance creating garments that zip on and off. We have already seen layering on the runway for Fall 2012 as a new "stacked" silhouette emerges that not only breaks up shapes but has major utilitarian and practical relevancy. Therefore the ability to quickly replenish bestsellers and new products will be key. In addition, we now have a third factor to work into the supply chain, weather driven demand.

With this said, "forecasting" needs not only new terminology but a new definition. Everything is simply too unpredictable. In today's fast-paced world of technology with all the various curated social platforms, it is more difficult than ever to define what is new in fashion and what will be in fashion. We here at MBF Trend Consulting, directly experience a growing need in the industry for specific in-depth knowledge as retailers continue to try and understand what will be new with their customers and what will be the next big thing in their specific marketplace.

From the economy to the weather to fashion and retail, where are we headed? What does our future look like? Today’s forecast reads inconsistent, but maybe tomorrow’s will be a bit more certain.

March 22, 2012

The Story In Demand

We all want something different these days that not only sets us apart but also tells some sort of story relevant to who we are and what we believe in. Outside of the traditional department store, world of fast fashion chains, ordinary restaurants and everyday products are some new and cool brands pioneering this changing demand.

From interior design to actual product development, these brands are challenging the norm with their fearless and innovative desire to stand out in an oversaturated market by experimenting with what they believe in. Today we’d like to inspire you as these brands have inspired us. We are headed in a new direction that focuses on the meaning behind things and caring about where and how things are made. To make it in any industry, something has to stand out and be “special.”

video via M A I Y E T

Inspired by truth and harmony of the Ancient Egyptians and partnering with the nonprofit organization, NestMaiyet works with artisans from around the world to strengthen and promote entrepreneurship in Colombia, India, Italy and Kenya. Not only is the collection described as “rare and unexpected,” but its dedication to timeless quality and soulful design gives it a sense of substance and depth. First launched in Paris for Spring 2012, the label is now exclusively sold at Barney's emulating ladylike simplicity, mindfulness and the idea of a new luxury.

photo via Good Society

For some, a good fitting pair of jeans is ideal love but for the denim line, Good Society, it's so much more than that. Organically grown cotton on environmentally aware farms, manufactured by ethical and safe factories in China, and shared profits that support children's homes in India is just the gist of it. For them, their vision all starts with a simple decision and that's all it takes to have an impact.

If eating is one thing, it's about the experience and the Danish chef Mads Refslund, is all about just that. This time, he's cooked up some of his famous New Nordic cuisine (as he puts it) and re-invented the restaurant Acme in SoHo. While the name has remained unchanged, the menu is entirely spiced up, broken into four sections titled soil, raw, cooked and sea/land. As a former Head Chef/Co-founder of the restaurant Noma with fellow colleague René Redzepi, Mads plans on further pursuing his philosophy of "foraging" and "bonding rawness" by incorporating natural herbs and plants from nature into his cuisine. The idea of raw, fresh flavored ingredients not only challenges his talent but brings the forest to the city in the most innovative concoctions.

video via youtube

IBM recently partnered with the University of Bari to implement a cloud computing system that helps control the demand of the local fishing industry in Italy. Using this new business model fishermen can keep track of how many fish they are catching "in real time" as well as sell the fish before they even reach land through a virtual fish market. By minimizing excess waste and maximizing on efficiency, costs are reduced and demand is better controlled. From bringing the forest to the city to bringing technology to the sea, it's all about learning how to better manage one's business by mixing things up a bit. We predict as cloud computing filters into more industries that it will generate more effective business strategies to the mainstream.

photo via

Last year we introduced the IOU Project which combines craft, business, social networking and complete traceability into an experimental strategy to produce an updated supply chain or as they call it, "a prosperity chain." Kavita Parmar, IOU's founder and creative director, is dedicated to the notion that the entire supply chain must change "to create a new one that allows goods to be produced and sold and serves everyone involved." Rather than following mainstream fashion trends, the project is a leader in the world of ethical fashion as everyone from the artisan to the designer and final customer are involved in the story to create authentic, responsible and beautiful products. Most recently, IOU has partnered with Source4Style to launch the "DIY with IOU" sustainable design competition as well as been deemed the innovation of the year award for 2012 at the 16th Annual Luxury Briefing Awards! From all of us here at MBF Trend Consulting, congratulations to the IOU Project on all your achievements!

photo via IOU Project

So what is driving this changing landscape that is affecting all these different industries? It's all about having a story behind a brand, awareness, transparency, innovation, design and technology. In addition, the awareness and demand of consumers' behavior is evolving as they look for newness and specialness in how they spend their money and time. Businesses are beginning to catch on as well as they look to restructure business models, marketing tactics and product assortments. Everyone is beginning to realize something needs to change. From the erratic weather changes to the unstable economy, slowly but surely, we are headed into a new mindset as our insight into the future continues to get more and more complicated. 

March 15, 2012

Don't Live In Your Inbox

Right now we feel the biggest constant is change – so let’s have a look at how social media in fashion conscious platforms has evolved and how it is affecting the apparel industry.

As marketers continue to develop new social media outlets and expand on digital marketing tactics, industry observers suggest that there is a gap between browsing and buying. Are these social media developments even stimulating sales? Gap, J.C. Penney, Gamestop, and Nordstrom don’t seem to think so as they have all opened and subsequently shut down their facebook stores.

photo via

On the contrary, a spawn of virtual closets, personal digital lookbooks, online style advice platforms, collaging websites, and shopping communities have recently multiplied into fashion cyber space. Among them is Pinterest, the hottest new social media scrapbooking tool that allows users to "pin" images to create their own digital bulletin boards. So what sets Pinterest apart from the rest you ask? Well, not only is it one of the fastest growing websites in history growing quicker than both Facebook and Twitter, but it's a visual dream diary that organizes, collects, and categorizes one's favorite inspirational images all in one place.

Without doubt, Pinterest is the next big thing! With an exclusive invitation only acceptance, Pinterest appeals primarily to women as an update to collaging magazine clippings for wedding ideas, personal style, one's dream house, or DIY projects. What's most interesting is its primary users are not the early adopters because to use the outlet there is simply nothing to adapt to. Instead, it represents how technology is evolving and how we are evolving using it. Anyone and everyone uses smartphones, iPads, blogs, etc. Technology is no longer just for the typical "geeky guy."

Retailers are also starting to "pin" products on these virtual cork boards to try and get new product approval, promote contests, and communicate between the brand and its customers. Etsy, Urban Outfitters, Gilt Groupe, and American Eagle are just a few retailers hoping to profit from these virtual pinboards as well as promote their brand identity as the lines between social interaction and e-commerce continue to blur. However, how to actually increase profitability and whether or not it can be done is still under question, as these brands continue to experiment.

photo via

Speaking of blurry lines, the fashion magazine has been under some major fog since the rise in popularity of the internet in the mid 1990's. While many fade out of print and go digital, some like have brought authenticity back to readers in a 100-page printed booklet that can be read in under 5 minutes to compete with the fast paced speed reading online versions. Not to mention, the blog,, has moved in the same direction as it now has evolved to include a quarterly issued user-generated fashion magazine and one of the first of its kind! Blogging as a platform and pretty much anything online is becoming increasingly saturated as well and it seems that leading innovating bloggers are starting to bring back a more tangible format in response.

Both InStyle, Ahalife and also have a similar idea as they have taken the digital experience and brought it to the storefront. InStyle opened up shop on 5th Ave to showcase six spring looks through the use of touch screen technology, Net-A-Porter launched a pop-up shop in the West Village where customers could shop the site on iPads linked to the exclusive KARL collection and in Beverly Hills Ahalife expanded its website to include a "virtual showroom" boutique.

photo via

From the physical world to the digital realm and back, companies can’t make up their mind on how to capture the attention of consumers in an oversaturated marketplace. Social media is supposed to make things easier and more convenient, but instead everything is just getting more complicated. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Foursquare etc, when is enough enough? When will we stop wasting time posting every little detail of our lives and actually live them? And more importantly, how did we live our lives before? We went to the movies, we used maps, telephones, answering machines and wrote letters. We were on time. Our penmanship was better. We "accidentally" ran into people and it was an actual surprise rather than noticing they "checked in" somewhere. We had real skills. We had real coincidences. We had real lives. All because we had to.

As the world gets bigger (both reality and the virtual interface), our problems grow too. In a way, we are all living in our own digital comas. Our experiences are no longer authentic. On one hand, the entire world is at our fingertips, but at the same time our grasp on our immediate world is disappearing. Sooner or later we are going to have to learn to maintain a healthy balance of both worlds or we will never wake up. We strongly believe that there is a balance between offline and online in the apparel industry. Brick and mortar operations will definitely co-exist and remain an important part of our lifestyle despite the drive for newness in the social media sector. It's just going to take time to find the balance through experimentation, and most importantly, the process of trial and error. Today, we challenge you to disconnect, close your inbox, and grasp a little bit of reality just long enough to write a handwritten letter. Do you even remember how?

March 8, 2012

A New Recipe

Keeping in anticipation with our ideals of where the future is progressing, here is another new and innovative concept, which just touched down in New York, the White Goes Green with C.L.A.S.S. White is one of Europe’s leading lifestyle exhibition platforms that has partnered with C.L.A.S.S. to help promote brands and designers with a “sustainable soul.”

Through textile innovation, technology, design and responsibility, we will move fashion forward. It is of upmost importance to know where to find beautiful and cutting edge sustainable textiles. C.L.A.S.S is dedicated to exploring this idea through its eco material library, which not only has showrooms in London and Milan, but additional locations is in the planning.

photo via C.L.A.S.S.

We had the pleasure to sit down with Giusy Bettoni, CEO and Co-Founder of C.L.A.S.S., here in New York to discuss more about the show and the future of the industry:

MBF: What is your background and how did you start C.L.A.S.S. ?

GB: I have been working within the textiles system for more than 30 years, starting with “hands-on” experience within the raw material market development sector, working for major organizations. In 1993 I set up my own agency to develop the synergies between market development and communication. I have dedicated the last 10 years to promoting and communicating a clear message of responsible innovation throughout the textile, fashion, home and lifestyle categories, resulting in the launch of C.L.A.S.S. in 2007. C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy) is an International eco-platform that supports and promotes environmentally sensible products for fashion, home and design through a wide range of eco-textiles, yarns, processes and services. C.L.A.S.S.' global network of showrooms features a comprehensive materials library - available for businesses, designers and buyers. C.L.A.S.S. is also a complete communication, marketing and product development consulting service centered around a new approach to textiles that includes design, innovation and responsibility.

MBF: What brought you to New York?

GB: Since the beginning we have been receiving a lot of requests from the U.S.A. in general, but with a high relevance especially from NY and Los Angeles. It is really important to enable the market operators with information about innovative materials with a high content of design and responsibility, that’s the new successful marketing mix...a tridimensional approach. So when White decided to come with a special New York exhibition, we immediately took the chance!

photo via C.L.A.S.S.

MBF: How has sustainable fashion and lifestyle products evolved since we met over the last 2 years?

GB: I am really pleased first of all because sustainable fashion and lifestyle have a much higher (and growing rapidly) design content. This means getting closer to the consumer as well. In terms of innovation we have seen incredible steps to support this objective and these are also coming from industries and not just individual small realities.

MBF: What is the response of retailers/buyers? Has the demand for sustainable lifestyle products increased?

GB: It is for sure increasing as much as the offer is becoming closer to the 3 values that the product offer should, innovation, responsibility. The presence of the offer in the appropriate trade channels such as the White Show, where visitors are looking for ultimate in innovation and design, for very particular things in sustainable fashion is the ultimate in textile innovation and design!

MBF: What do you think drives the demand?

GB: First is design and the look of the offer. Everybody all over the world wants beautiful things. Design has a key role in all our lifestyle product choices! But, then when the market (and consumer) want performing things as well, responsibility can be the differentiator! It has to have a high value element.

photo via C.L.A.S.S.

MBF: What are your vetting criteria to become part of C.L.A.S.S.? What certifications are you using?

GB: A class partner has to fulfill the following elements:
• Product needs to be a creative one, has to have an innovative story and a responsible profile.
• We need to get technical fact sheets about each single product fabric producers present, so that we know which kind of innovation we are talking about.
• Same thing for the responsibility element: we need appropriate certifications depending on the material we are talking about. Eg Organic materials : we ask GOTS, or ICEA certification. Recycled materials : GRS by Textile exchange. Innovative materials coming from renewable sources : LCA , ECOprofile.

MBF: How will you grow your business? What are your short-term, mid-term and long-term goals?

GB: Our long-term goal is to evolve class toward the next macro market evolution, as sustainability will become a “standard” element in all the product ranges at consumer level. Mid-term, is to get industries behind this change because without them sustainability will remain a niche. Short-term is the information at 360 degrees about these incredible materials, and their commercial introduction at all levels of the supply chain.

MBF: What are the biggest changes taking place right now in your business?

GB: Every day we have a new step forward but for sure what is happening in these last 3 months is the real interest from established designers to include new materials in order to innovate the collection and not just to make something green.

photo via C.L.A.S.S.

Collaborating with C.L.A.S.S. is Filature Miroglio’s Newlife products, which are comprised of recycled polyester filament yarns that are sourced 100% from post-consumer bottles. Not only has Newlife been selected to participate in the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, but over 50 international textile partners have worked with the recycled fibres since its launch a little over a year ago.

With all these revolutionary leaders seeking change in the industry, we can only look forward to what's to come next. As Giusy said herself, “Fashion is like having to cook with many ingredients – we use new ingredients to get to another level.” While this recipe is still being prepped, we look forward to a taste test in the near future!

March 1, 2012

March MBF Favorite Picks

About six months ago, we discussed in our September MBF Favorite Picks, how natives are returning back to their homeland of Brazil. While about 30 new luxury brands including Fendi and Prada are expected to expand into this financially booming market over the next two years, we begin to see a counter effect as many Brazilian brands and influences begin to spread outward into international territory.

photo via NY Times

Miami, also playfully known as the South American capital in North America, has become a major vacation hotspot for Brazilian investment as they snatch up everything from real estate to clothes, jewelry, cars, you name it. As Southern Florida continues to prosper as a top getaway locale, many Floridians are nonetheless eagerly riding out on this wave of cash flow. Not only are Portuguese speaking employees in high demand at shopping malls but Brazilian food is making a reputation in the restaurant industry as native chains like Giraffas sweep across the city. 

New York, another popular city high in Brazilian tourism, is also getting sprinkled with some South American flare. Just in time for spring, the Brazilian footwear company, Melissa, known for its candy colored plastic shoes opened its first store outside of Sao Paulo in SoHo last month. The store with a very psychedelic design consisting of white walls and neon lighting displays shoes on white pedestals from collaborations with designers such as Vivienne Westwood to Gareth Pugh and Jason Wu. At an affordable price point of $100-$200, fun concept, and not to mention made out of 100% recyclable PVC, we'll be watching this shop to see where it plans on walking next!

photo via WWD

Not only is SoHo getting some South American culture, but midtown as well. In May, following its annual flower show, Macy's plans to launch it's "Magical Journey to Brasil," a two month long promotion focusing on the most talked about country right now. According to Macy's executive vice president of marketing Martine Reardon, "Almost every single one of our 800 stores will have something Brazil-related." The department store maven will feature Brazilian design in the areas of fashion, home, beauty, menswear, accessories and art. With a design aesthetic consisting of bright hues and bold prints, these capsule collections will definitely embody the heart of Brazilian design and culture. As Macy's continually seeks to go international, will the success of this promotion lead to future cultural collections from around the world possibly tapping into the likes of Europe and Asia? We will see!

photo via

A few weeks ago, F*Hits, an online platform featuring 25 carefully selected Brazilian bloggers, ventured to London to report on all things fashion week including an exclusive tour of the Louis Vuitton Maison on Bond Street, meet and greets with designers, and numerous exhibitions and galleries. F*Hits was launched in January 2011 by Alice Ferraz and now includes F*Hits SHOPS, an ecommerce site where F*Hits bloggers style and model clothing from Brazilian designers like Lita Mortari and Martha Medeiros. Not only does this concept produce feedback from each bloggers' following but stimulates purchases because according to Ferraz herself, "Women want to see other women like themselves wearing these clothes." We couldn't agree more!

video via

While everyone eagerly tries to tap into the Brazilian market, we suspect the Brazilian craze will nonetheless keep surfacing up around the world as their economy continues to flourish. Today we would like to leave you with some insider tips (and a quirky video) on the culture we are all so interested to access!
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